Riff’s North (Turners Falls, MA)

(Update: Riff’s North closed in mid-2021 due to an ongoing staffing shortage. They’ll be missed.)
One of the areas I do really like exploring is Western MA’s Pioneer Valley. A semi-rural area much like VT/NH along the Connecticut River, it’s got a nice selection of college towns (Amherst, Northampton), quiet former mill towns (Easthampton, which is surprisingly SW of Northampton, and Greenfield), and the like. Nestled among these towns are a bunch of great little restaurants, breweries, art galleries, farm stands, and the like, and it’s nice to occasionally get out and explore a new town. In this case, while we’ve been to Greenfield a few times, I had never really had a chance to explore the village across the river, Turners Falls. It’s actually part of Montague, MA, but Turners Falls is a fairly compact downtown area along the now-defunct Turner Falls canal (now a reservoir for a dam downriver in Greenfield). In any case, it’s a rather nice little downtown, with an arts center, some galleries, and a rather nice selection of restaurants. After looking at a few menus, we ended up settling on Riff’s North.

Riff’s North, as you might suspect, is actually a spin-off of another restaurant, Riff’s Joint in Easthampton MA. Both restaurants are basically burger and sandwich joints, featuring a selection of burgers, wings, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, fries, and a rather nice selection of local beers. Looking over the menu, while several of the burgers looked quite attractive (like the “Shooters Hill” with a pickapepper sauce-infused burger patty), and they’ve got a nice “build-your-own-sandwich” menu with a nice open-format selection where you pick either a burger (including turkey and black bean options) or chicken breast (grilled or breaded), and a selection of toppings, I ended up going with their Southern Chicken sandwich. I’ve recently had quite a good number of good fried chicken sandwiches, and decided to try and continue the run: their version is a fried chicken breast with mayo, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion, and a nice side salad (and Carol opted for almost exactly the same)

A few minutes later, our sandwiches arrived, and the result here was a really well-composed sandwich. The chicken breast itself was a nice, thick, juicy slab of chicken, cooked fully but not dry, with a nice, crispy breading. There’s a certain interplay I really enjoy in a good sandwich between a toasted bun, the crunch of the breading, and the softer textures of tomato and lettuce, and here it worked really well, with a nice, light shmear of mayo tying everything together. Indeed, this was one of the better chicken sandwiches I’ve had recently.

Overall, Riff’s was a nice little pit stop for us in a charming little part of Western Mass. The beer selection was quite good, the service friendly, and the sandwiches top notch (if a bit pricey, $11.75 for the sandwich and $3 for the salad, but I guess this is a case where quality costs). I’d definitely like to come back and try some of their burgers.

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